Music venues in China

This section of our website is still under construction. Places to go to in China for concerts of classical and popular music are often well-advertised or easy to track down in tourist brochures. What we would like to do here is list all the public locations in China where traditional (folk or classical) music can be heard. These are places often known only to local people and to some researchers of Chinese music. For a start, Stephen Jones (SOAS, London) has taken a look at the narrative-singing scene in Beijing. He lists some addresses below. We invite our readers to provide us with similar information about traditional musical activity in various cities throughout China. For example, who could help us to a list of narrative-singing venues in Tianjin? Where should one go to hear teahouse music in Shanghai or Guangdong? What are the best place to see local opera? Hopefully we can extend this list over the coming years and gradually turn it into a genuine guide to venues of living traditional Chinese music in the People's Republic, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of the world!

Narrative-singing in Beijing

While Beijing is doubtless a far less active scene for dagu narrative-singing than Tianjin, several pleasant qushe venues are now established which are not overrun by tourists paying through the nose:
  • Most delightful is the Jixian chengyun club at the splendid home of Mr Qian Yadong (92 sui next year, and looking wonderful on it) and his wife, where afficionados meet every Monday evening. Address: Weikeng hutong 36 hao, in Xinjiekou. Approach by turning east just south of the main Xinjiekou junction; Weikeng hutong is a little turning running north a few hundred metres along, just past a Beijing duck restaurant. They have just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the club. Gifts of fruit or suchlike recommended.
I know of three other venues which are tea-houses, charging a standard couple of kuai for tea-money, and meeting in the afternoons from 2 to 5 pm:
  • The Jingwei chaguan'r, just west of the Huacai Music store in the west section of Liulichang, on the south side of the road in an area of market stalls, has dagu performers on Tuesday afternoons from 2 to 5 pm.
  • The dagu club at Xicheng qu Wenhua guan, near the Xidan market, meets on Thursday afternoons.
  • In a tea-house on the east side of the road some way up Baochao hutong just west of the Gulou Drum Tower, performers get together every Sunday afternoon.
Indeed, there is enough interest these days for a newsletter to have started up, called Bajiaogu xun. Edited by Zhang Weidong, its address is:
Beijing 100022 Chaoyang qu Chuiyangliu beili 14 lou 1 men 15 shi

The newsletter may be featured on the website

Maybe someone can do this better than me: that's what I know, anyway!
Stephen Jones

Sizhu in Shanghai 2001

Despite a substantial quorum of laowai Jiangnan sizhu aficionados, with Larry Witzleben's 1990 Silk and Bamboo music in Shanghai as their bible, it is always worth keeping track of the amateur scene in Shanghai. Please help expand this list and keep it up to date!

Music takes place mostly from around 2 to 4 pm, though some start a bit earlier. For all the fabled futurism of Shanghai, here may be more sizhu clubs active now than in the 1980s: one senior musician knew of over 30 in central Shanghai alone, not to mention the more distant suburbs - giving us a chioce of several venues any afternay 2001 as a starting point: most are in western Shanghai. All are welcoming; some charge a couple of kuai for tea money, others nothing.

Of the more celebrated venues, sizhu is no longer played at the Wenmiao (since it started charging entrance as a tourist site in 2000); the Chenghuang miao "pavilion in the heart of the lake" is still active on Monday afternoons but may be catering increasingly to tourists.

Xianxia lu, Sundays
Xianxia lu 435 long 5 hao 3 lou
Xianxia wenhua huodong zhongxin
The successor of the Yunhe guoyue xuehui, renamed Tianshan in 1977 and Xianxia in 1984, it is now run by the venerable Zhang Zhengming (77 sui in 2001).

Xuhui club, Hongqiao lu, Mondays
Hongqiao lu / Yishan lu kou
Xuhui jiedao wenhua zhongxin, 3 lou
126 tram

Shuicheng lu, Tuesdays
Shuicheng lu 689 (?) hao
Changning qu laolingren huodong zhongxin
71 or 127 bus

Qinglian jie ("Wanzhuga"), Wednesdays
Lianyi zhulebu
Lao Ximen, east of Xizang nanlu, just north of the Baiyun guan Daoist temple. Run by senior musician Wang Shuigui. I kuai 5 mao for tea money.

Hunan lu, Thursdays
Hunan lu 301 hao
Jiangnan guoyue hui
near the Shanghai Conservatory
run by Chen Xinghou (89 sui in 2001)

Xinjing club, Hami lu, Fridays
Hami lu 433 hao
Xinjing zhen wenhua huodong zhongxin
quite far west, over bridge over canal. 88 bus.
This is the Xinjing guoyue she, established in 1988 and run by Yao Zhenping (76 sui in 2001)

Baotun lu, Saturdays
Baotun lu 220 hao (basement)
Xizang nanlu near Zhongshan nanlu
The descendant of Wei Zhongle's Zhongguo guanxian yuetuan, this club tends to play arrangements with conservatory instrumentation

A fine exhibition
called "Sanshi niandai Shanghai sizhu yueqi shiliao zhan", highlights sizhu activity in Shanghai from the Republican period, with atmospheric photos and some fine instruments. On the 5th floor of the amazing new Dajuyuan (Grand Theatre) building, but billed to end in October 2001, this exhibition is such a well-kept secret that it is unknown even to the officials in the building where it is housed; you will need great perseverance to persuade them it exists. If you're there just for the exhibition, try and avoid paying the costly entrance ticket to see the whole building.

Nor does the list of active Daoist temples in Shanghai seem to diminish. Apart from the splendid Baiyun guan in the city itself (Fangxie lu, just west of Xizang nanlu), and a lively folk huoju Daoist scene, active temples include the following:

in Pudong: Qinci yangdian, Longwang miao, Chongfu daoyuan, Shezhuang miao and Sanyuan gong (nunnery)
in Nanhui, the Dongyue miao
in Fengxian, the Shangzhen daoyuan
in Minhang, the Guandi miao
in Qingpu, the Zhujiajiao

Stephen Jones
(updated September 2001)